The Seven Phases of Climate Awareness

Climate Awareness

by Guy Dauncey

Which Phase Are You In?

Phase 1: Complete Unawareness. 

It’s simply not on your radar. You know more about Taylor Swift or Beyoncé than you do about climate change, or whatever it’s called.

Phase 2: What is This – is it Real?

I keep hearing about it, but it’s all so confusing. One person says one thing, someone else says another. So I’m reading blogs, articles, and even some books. trying to fathom it all out.

Phase 3: OMG, this is Awful. It looks like a Real Catastrophe.

Massive sea level rise? Huge droughts, storms and downpours? Freshwater running out? This is terrible. I read that the word most scientists use to describe the future if we don’t tackle the climate crisis is ‘catastrophic‘.   

Phase 3a: Phew! Maybe it’s not true. Maybe the Climate Deniers are right.

Maybe it’s caused by the sun. The climate has changed many times before, for natural reasons, Maybe there’s no need to make such a fuss about fossil fuels. We should focus on the issues that really matter, like the loss of nature, or malnutrition and hunger, or economic growth. PS every climate denial argument is debunked here.

Phase 4: But Look at all these Great Climate Solutions!

Look at Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown! There’s so much we could and should be doing. Why is so little happening? This is frustrating, Why are people and politicians not all over this?

Phase 5: OMG – This Could be Amazing.

100% renewable energy. No more air pollution. No more wars over oil and gas. No more need for pipelines. Bike lanes everywhere. Livable cities. Zero waste. Organic food. Forest restoration. Much healthier vegetarian and vegan diets. These solutions will generate a world that will be so much better, so much healthier, and so much happier. Is it doable? YES. So what can I do? I want to become engaged.

Phase 6: This is so Frustrating!

We’re making so little progress! Everything in the global economy seems to be pushing against the climate solutions. The Paris climate commitments are voluntary, while the trade treaties carry huge financial penalties. The economy is totally dominating the climate. Naomi Klein says we have to end capitalism if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis – but that makes it seem even more impossible.

Phase 6a: It Looks as if it’s Too Late. 

Nobody’s acting anywhere like fast enough, and the fossil fuel interests and the climate-deniers are jamming progress. Better prepare for life on the Dark Mountain. A pity. It was a nice planet.

Phase 7: Wow, is BIG. This could be So Exciting.

In truth, what we need is a new ecological civilization, with a new cooperative economy. Something big, to get excited about. We can need to work for a huge transition in which we build a sustainable, green, cooperative economy which tackles the climate crisis and which also tackle the ecological crisis, the debt crisis, the inequality crisis, the collapse of community, the story crisis, and so much more. It will take a huge unified movement, bringing together so many separate movements which share the same vision of this future, but we’ve succeeded in such movements in the past. Let’s do it!


I was in Phase 1 until the mid 1980s. I entered Phase 2 and then 3 in the 1990s, and I moved deliberately into Phase 4 in the year 2000, when I researched and wrote my first climate book, Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. I had this great list of all the solutions, which I updated in 2008 in my book The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, but I didn’t really enter Phase 5 until 2012, after the failure of the big UN Copenhagen climate conference, when I started to pitch a radical positive energy and vision, and found a huge positive response. I expressed this in talks and slide-shows, and also in my big novel, Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, set in the year 2032, which shows in great detail how we actually achieved the transition, and made the switch to 100% renewable energy.

Rationally, however, I could see that in spite of all the progress with wind and solar and EVs and bike-lanes, and more people becoming vegetarian, the global weight of fossil fuels was still increasing, so along with Naomi Klein and others, I entered Phase 6.

I am now firmly in Phase 7, and deep at work on my new book The Economics of Kindness: The Birth of a New Cooperative Economy, to demonstrate that YES, we can do this, but our vision needs to include a much deeper sense of what a new economy can be, as well as an inner commitment to kindness and cooperation, rather than selfishness and blind greed.

Which phase are you in?



9 thoughts on “The Seven Phases of Climate Awareness

  1. In all honesty I think I can claim to be in 7. I’m in love with the concept of a kind, cooperative economy. A hugely important part of a new , earth-friendly economy will have to be a totally new way for men to engage. We can turn our backs on the old repressive masculinities that have sentenced us to emotional isolation and early death since time immemorial. And, society as a whole will actually be able to DO things that hopefully will make a genuine difference to the relationship between the planet and homo sapiens.


  2. Hi Guy I like your ideas and purchased your book journey to the future. I receive the emails from landwatch and a month ago there was an email about an initiative coming from The Hague called The Hague principles which I
    I contacted them about their up coming forum in The Hague Netherlands where there are hoping to get organizations and individuals from around the world to endorse The Hague Principles. I asked them if anyone from North America had decided to come and was told that are no organizations that are coming. I am hoping to help them to move their objective forward but am just an individual and don’t really know many people in the lower mainland where I live now. Please have a look at the Hague Principles and let me know if what you think. I believe I am a 7. I love nature.


    1. Thanks for writing – the Hague Principles are very solid. Someone I know and respect – Polly Higgins – is speaking at their forthcoming conference. I think they are just quite new. There will be many many people in the Lower Mainland who would agree, but I’m not sure where to begin – it’s such a large topic. Can you send me an email? guydauncey at earthfuture dot com


  3. Guy,
    I have appreciated your work for many years and have used your books in teaching and my organizing. I like your “backcasting” approach and use it often. We just finished using your Journey to the Future book in a study group and people appreciated it, although overwhelming for people at stages 2-6. A few of us have begun to work on Eco-Commons as an easier way to describe Eco Civlization and what you are describing as a cooperative economy. I don’t know if this muddies the waters or helps? Would appreciate your feedback. Ted


    1. Thanks! I’ve taken to using the phrase “A new ecological civilization”, and then inviting people to ask themselves – what would it look like? The Eco-Commons is one slice of a far larger transformation that is needed. A new cooperative economy is an entire dimension, but even that is only one of maybe six or seven dimensions of the overall change.


      1. I was just with David Korten, John Cobb, Matt Fox, Jeremy Lent and Vandana Shiva at the Parliament of World Religions in TO. The old gang from your coast. (I’m in Lake Country, ON) They were using the Ecological Civliization as well. Cobb was just back from China and Korea who are concretely working on this concept. So I see the argument of it.
        I’m on board with your economic thinking and with Kate Raworth’s Donut Economics. You probably know of Jeremy Lent but he was new to me and very impressive.

        I/we have been trying to us the commoning language probably as you describe the broad aspect of cooperative economics. I’m a social ethicist and minister in the United Church so am trying to animate folks around a concept that seems interesting and inspiring. Words like civilization and economics are intimidating to people. I was also the ED of Faith & the Common Good for 15 yrs so have experience with this word and how people are interested in it.
        Anyway, we are on the same page. it is the community organizing side of things that i’m trying to find language for. i’ve used lots of your stuff as good understandable materials. So thanks, Ted


  4. I forgot to mention Heather Menzie’s Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good. This book inspires a broader way of remembering the commons and imagining it in the future. Ted


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